9 Strategies to Getting Things Done At Work

Many a times you find it difficult to manage your work. Here are few strategies that will help you manage your work, and help you getting things done.

1.) Start with the hard stuff first.

We often tend to put the difficult tasks as a late entry on our to-do list because we just don’t want to deal with it right now. Moreover, we are attracted to the smaller and easier tasks because it gives us a false impression that we’re doing more.

“Saving the worst for last” can prove to be detrimental in our ability to get things done because we’ve already used up our initial energy on non-critical tasks. You’ll also end up constantly thinking and worrying about that dreaded task ahead, causing stress and distraction throughout the workday. Finishing the hard stuff first will give you an early boost in morale and a sense of real accomplishment earlier in the day.

2.) Write down just five tasks to do today.

Often, we measure our productiveness by the length of our task list. The more items we have on the list, the more impressive we appear to be. On the contrary, trimming down your list provides the benefit of you being able to focus on your current tasks and allowing you to easily manage your timeline on these endeavors. You should measure your efficiency and productivity with the quality of the work you’ve done, factored into the equation. A responsibility that’s rushed and poorly finished (read: “half-assed“) can actually be less efficient in the long run because you might have to commit additional time to fix issues and provide additional support and maintenance. In addition, if you’re not overwhelmed with a myriad of things to do, you won’t risk simply giving up and leaving them for another day.

3.) Take a breather regularly.

Give yourself a few minutes at different points of the day to temporarily “power down” and relax. You can take a brisk walk around your office building or you can spend some time catching up with a colleague – just don’t stray off too much. A simple thing I do when I’m stuck on an issue that’s preventing me from progressing is to take a five-minute break away from my work area. When I come back from my mini-break — more often than not – I’ve already figured out the solution without even thinking about it.

4.) Cut down on non-work activities.

The oldest trick in the book when it comes to getting stuff done is to limit activities that don’t relate to the job at hand, yet it’s something we often don’t think about seriously. If you find that you’re constantly running out of time at work, take a day or two to consciously keep tabs on activities that you indulge in but aren’t pertinent to your daily responsibilities. You might be surprised to find that you’ve been checking your favorite websites a tad bit too much or chatting up your co-workers a little too excessively.

5.) Keep a work journal.

A work journal comes in many forms. It can be a simple steno pad, a Word document, your PDA, and you can even use web services such as HiTask. A work journal serves many purposes towards getting stuff done. First, it allows you to better organize your work which leads to a more effective way of planning out your work schedule and prioritizing tasks.

Second, it catalogs the things you’ve done and the problems you’ve solved so that when you encounter the same situation at a later date, you can just look back on your journal entries, saving you time and effort trying to figure out how you addressed a similar task.

Third, it’ll keep you motivated and focused on your daily tasks; I find that when my journal’s light on content, I step it up a notch and get things rolling. Lastly, it’s a way to show yourself that you’ve done a good job.

6.) Work fewer hours.

Again, when we think of productivity, we think putting more hours into our work day yields higher productivity. Less work hours generally means more time to spend on your personal affairs, which leads to better health and a reduction in stress levels – two major variables that cuts back productivity. Sure, staying late at work is good for appearance-sake (showing the boss your dedication), but if it leads to things not getting done, they’ll eventually catch on to your “I’m working hard” bluff.

Working too much can be a never-ending feedback cycle where: you work long hours, which leads to less personal time…which leads to less sleep and time for your personal activities… which leads to tiredness in the morning and less energy to complete tasks at work… which leads to even more work hours… and you see where I’m going with this. If you’re able to control your workday, try to adjust your schedule so that you’re able to enjoy your life outside of work more fully.

7.) Disconnect yourself momentarily.

The modern worker is faced with an ever-growing method of staying connected to other people. Cell phones, emails, social networking sites like Facebook, and web services like twitter that let’s everyone know what you’re doing right now, allow us unprecedented ability to communicate with everyone around the planet (well, minus those few dead-zones on the poles and some shady coordinates in the Bermuda Triangle). This is good for our social life but can lead to distractions at work. When you’ve got to get things done, disconnect for a moment; set a “Busy” status on your instant-messaging client, stop checking your emails every minute and opt to check it once every one or two hours, you’ll find that disconnecting provides you an uninterrupted period of time where you can really focus on the tasks at hand.

8.) Mix it up.

Monotony is a key factor that leads to a work slump. When you’ve been looking at the same Excel spreadsheet for the past few days or working on the same project for months, the reason that might be holding you back from finally delivering is that you’re stuck in a rut. Volunteer to help a co-worker on his project and step away from yours for a short period of time; it might help you break the monotony and it’s a good way to improve your karma at work.

9.) Keep motivating thoughts in mind.

Figure out what motivates you to excel, finish, and progress. Are you a competitive spirit who doesn’t like to be outdone by others? Do you find satisfaction in impressing others with the speed and quality of your methods? Or maybe you have family and loved ones that depend on you to advance in your career. It doesn’t matter what the reason is — find it — and use it as a constant reminder as to why you’re doing what you’re doing

Qualities of project manager

Inspires a Shared Vision

An effective project leader is often described as having a vision of where to go and the ability to articulate it. Visionaries thrive on change and being able to draw new boundaries. It was once said that a leader is someone who “lifts us up, gives us a reason for being and gives the vision and spirit to change.” Visionary leaders enable people to feel they have a real stake in the project. They empower people to experience the vision on their own. According to Bennis “They offer people opportunities to create their own vision, to explore what the vision will mean to their jobs and lives, and to envision their future as part of the vision for the organisation.” (Bennis, 1997)

Good Communicator

The ability to communicate with people at all levels is almost always named as the second most important skill by project managers and team members. Project leadership calls for clear communication about goals, responsibility, performance, expectations and feedback.

There is a great deal of value placed on openness and directness. The project leader is also the team’s link to the larger organisation. The leader must have the ability to effectively negotiate and use persuasion when necessary to ensure the success of the team and project. Through effective communication, project leaders support individual and team achievements by creating explicit guidelines for accomplishing results and for the career advancement of team members.

Integrity

One of the most important things a project leader must remember is that his or her actions, and not words, set the modus operandi for the team. Good leadership demands commitment to, and demonstration of, ethical practices. Creating standards for ethical behaviour for oneself and living by these standards, as well as rewarding those who exemplify these practices, are responsibilities of project leaders. Leadership motivated by self-interest does not serve the well being of the team. Leadership based on integrity represents nothing less than a set of values others share, behaviour consistent with values and dedication to honesty with self and team members. In other words the leader “walks the talk” and in the process earns trust.

Enthusiasm

Plain and simple, we don’t like leaders who are negative – they bring us down. We want leaders with enthusiasm, with a bounce in their step, with a can-do attitude. We want to believe that we are part of an invigorating journey – we want to feel alive. We tend to follow people with a can-do attitude, not those who give us 200 reasons why something can’t be done. Enthusiastic leaders are committed to their goals and express this commitment through optimism. Leadership emerges as someone expresses such confident commitment to a project that others want to share his or her optimistic expectations. Enthusiasm is contagious and effective leaders know it.

Empathy

What is the difference between empathy and sympathy? Although the words are similar, they are, in fact, mutually exclusive. According to Norman Paul, in sympathy the subject is principally absorbed in his or her own feelings as they are projected into the object and has little concern for the reality and validity of the object’s special experience. Empathy, on the other hand, presupposes the existence of the object as a separate individual, entitled to his or her own feelings, ideas and emotional history (Paul, 1970). As one student so eloquently put it, “It’s nice when a project leader acknowledges that we all have a life outside of work.”

Competence

Simply put, to enlist in another’s cause, we must believe that that person knows what he or she is doing. Leadership competence does not however necessarily refer to the project leader’s technical abilities in the core technology of the business. As project management continues to be recognised as a field in and of itself, project leaders will be chosen based on their ability to successfully lead others rather than on technical expertise, as in the past. Having a winning track record is the surest way to be considered competent. Expertise in leadership skills is another dimension in competence. The ability to challenge, inspire, enable, model and encourage must be demonstrated if leaders are to be seen as capable and competent.

Ability to Delegate Tasks

Trust is an essential element in the relationship of a project leader and his or her team. You demonstrate your trust in others through your actions – how much you check and control their work, how much you delegate and how much you allow people to participate. Individuals who are unable to trust other people often fail as leaders and forever remain little more that micro-managers, or end up doing all of the work themselves. As one project management student put it, “A good leader is a little lazy.” An interesting perspective!

Cool Under Pressure

In a perfect world, projects would be delivered on time, under budget and with no major problems or obstacles to overcome. But we don’t live in a perfect world – projects have problems. A leader with a hardy attitude will take these problems in stride. When leaders encounter a stressful event, they consider it interesting, they feel they can influence the outcome and they see it as an opportunity. “Out of the uncertainty and chaos of change, leaders rise up and articulate a new image of the future that pulls the project together.” (Bennis 1997) And remember – never let them see you sweat.

Team-Building Skills

A team builder can best be defined as a strong person who provides the substance that holds the team together in common purpose toward the right objective. In order for a team to progress from a group of strangers to a single cohesive unit, the leader must understand the process and dynamics required for this transformation. He or she must also know the appropriate leadership style to use during each stage of team development. The leader must also have an understanding of the different team players styles and how to capitalise on each at the proper time, for the problem at hand.

Problem Solving Skills

Although an effective leader is said to share problem-solving responsibilities with the team, we expect our project leaders to have excellent problem-solving skills themselves. They have a “fresh, creative response to here-and-now opportunities,” and not much concern with how others have performed them. (Kouzes 1987)